Harnessing the Power of Earned Media

In the wild world of public relations, where public perceptions can make or break an organization’s reputation, earned media is a critical tactic used in communications plans and strategies.

You may have heard of the term “earned media,” but unless you’ve worked in public relations, you may not know exactly what it means. Put simply, earned media refers to publicity gained through non-paid promotional efforts that occur organically. Earned media could manifest as a mention in a newspaper article, a television news story, a radio/podcast interview, and more.

You are likely familiar with paid advertising – paid advertising is widely used in public relations and when used properly, can yield excellent results for organizations looking to grow their brand, sell a product or drive awareness. But while paid opportunities are nice in how they give marketers broad control of their content and message distribution, earned media is effective because it can serve as third party validation for your organization, its services and unique strengths.

Let’s break down a few reasons why every organization should consider earned media as a cornerstone tactic for their PR strategy:

  1. Credibility and Trust – One of the greatest advantages of utilizing earned media is its ability to enhance the credibility of your organization and the services it provides. People are more likely to trust and respect an organization if they read a positive news story involving your organization. For instance, if a health insurance provider sponsors community events that promote things like regular dental cleanings, cancer screenings, and more, members of the community will likely begin to associate those positive acts with the provider, building trust and credibility amongst the general public.
  2. Reach and Amplification – Because so many people read, watch and listen to the news, earned media has the potential to reach vast audiences, which enables organizations to amplify key messages without exorbitant marketing budgets. For example, if a professional sports team is preparing to announce its intentions to build a new stadium, holding a press conference and inviting media organizations to attend will ensure that the public is aware of the project and can inject community-wide excitement, resulting in much-needed ticket and merchandise sales.
  3. Cost Effectiveness – Although securing earned media coverage is not easy and requires an investment in time and effort, the returns are usually worth that investment. By using media monitoring software, public relations professionals are able to determine the “earned media value” of particular pieces of content. In 2023, C2 Strategic helped one client secure over $1 million in earned media value by publicizing stories about community events, good paying jobs, construction updates and more. By committing to earned media as a key tactic in communications plans, organizations could see great returns on their initial investment.
  4. Authenticity Comes Through – Earned media coverage provides organizations with the opportunity to tell their stories in ways that are compelling and authentic. Although traditional advertising presents an opportunity for organizations to tell their stories, consumers can be wary of advertising. Storytelling through earned media allows organizations to share their values, mission and unique selling points in a way that is relatable and authentic. This approach can resonate with audiences and forge meaningful, long-lasting connections between the public and organizations that take the time to tell their stories and share them with the world.
  5. Reputation Repair and Proactive Pitching – All organizations face tough times, sometimes resulting in negative publicity. It happens. But by proactively telling positive stories before negative things happen, the public is more likely to cut your organization some slack during times of crisis. Additionally, crisis situations present opportunities for organizations to be transparent and honest, which will help regain the public’s trust more quickly and effectively than not saying anything at all.

Earned media isn’t a silver bullet, but it can be a very effective tool for any organization. From building credibility and trust to amplifying key messages, it can go a long way in enhancing brand visibility and reputation in today’s competitive media landscape. By incorporating earned media strategies into their PR efforts, organizations can unlock new opportunities for growth, positive engagement and overall success.

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